Geologic studies in the Sierra de Pe\~na Blanca, Chihuahua, Mexico

Ignacio Alfonso Reyes-Cortes, University of Texas at El Paso


The Sierra del Cuervo has been endowed with uranium mineralization, which has attracted many geological studies, and recently the author was part of a team with the goal of selecting a site of a radioactive waste repository. The first part of the work adds to the regional framework of stratigraphy and tectonics of the area. It includes the idea of a pull apart basin development, which justifies the local great thickness of the Cuervo Formation. It includes the regional structural frame work and the composite stratigraphic column of the Chihuahua Trough and the equivalent Cretaceous Mexican Sea.^ The general geologic features of the NE part of the Sierra del Cuervo are described, which include the folded ignimbrites and limestones in that area; the irregular large thicknesses of the Cuervo Formation; and the western vergence of the main folding within the area. Sanidine phenocrystals gave ages of 54.2 Ma and 51.8 Ma $\pm$ 2.3 Ma. This is the first time these dates have been reported in print. This age indicates a time before the folded structures which outcrop in the area, and 44 Ma is a date after the Cuervo Formation was folded. The Hidalgoan orogeny cycle affected the rocks between this lapse of time. Since then the area has been partially affected by three tensional overlapped stages, which resulted in the actual Basin and Range physiography. The jarosite related to the tectonic activity mineralization has been dated by the Ar-Ar method and yields an age of 9.8 Ma. This is the first report of a date of mineralization timing at Pena Blanca Uranium District in the Sierra del Cuervo.^ These are some of the frame work features that justify the allocation of a radioactive waste repository in the Sierra del Cuervo. An alluvial fan system within the Boquilla Colorada microbasin was selected as the best target for more detailed site assessment. The study also included the measurement of the alluvium thicknesses by geoelectric soundings; studies of petrography and weathered grade of the rock units; and the possible paths of potential leachate through the geologic media.^ The last part of the work relates to the natural analog of the Yucca Mountain, the Nopal I orebody, which is compared and found similar in its geologic frame work, in the lithologic units and their weathering, in the stratigraphic relationships with the vitrophyres and tuff horizons, in the climatic dryness, in the regional water table depth and the hydrologic features, in the ignimbritic units mineralogy, and in the radioactive waste fuel compared to the ore mineralogy of the Nopal I. There are mineralogic determinations of the fracture fill material in the orebody and host rock; detailed mapping of the fractures and surface alterations; and gamma ray grid measurements and electromagnetic soundings.^ All these studies indicate a support criteria to take the Nopal I as a natural analogue of the Yucca Mountain repository. The total evolution of the Nopal I orebody is exposed in the walls and floors of the +00 and +10 levels, which are ready to perform final safety tests in order to compare it with the future Yucca Mountain repository behavior. The Nopal in orebody has been there for several hundred of thousands and may be millions of years in an natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment. (Abstract shortened by UMI.) ^

Subject Area

Geology|Geophysics|Environmental Sciences|Engineering, Environmental

Recommended Citation

Reyes-Cortes, Ignacio Alfonso, "Geologic studies in the Sierra de Pe\~na Blanca, Chihuahua, Mexico" (1997). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI9801059.